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And the Oscar goes to … Previewing the 91st Academy Awards

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It’s Oscar time again!

This year marks the 91st Academy Awards. 91 years of Hollywood’s biggest night of self-celebration and self-congratulation. Nearly a century of dazzling gowns and dapper tuxedos and impactful acceptance speeches and inane interviews on the red carpet. Generations of excitement and disappointment.

As someone who loves the movies, I love the Oscars. Yes, they’ve grown increasingly out of touch over the years, but so what? There’s something exciting about rewarding the best of the best – even if what seems like the best of the best today might not seem so great later on down the road.

This marks the 12th Oscar preview I’ve written for The Maine Edge. I’ve been doing this for a dozen years. You might think that means I know something. And maybe I do … but not that much. While I’ve gotten pretty good at determining just who is going to win, the reality is that there are always going to be some surprises. That’s the joy of it – you just never know.

Here’s a look at my predictions for the 2019 Academy Awards. I've included write-ups for the big ones - the four acting categories, director and Best Picture - and just picked the winners for the rest.

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Best Supporting Actor:

Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”
Adam Driver, “BlacKkKlansman”
Sam Elliott, “A Star Is Born”
Richard E. Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Sam Rockwell, “Vice”

This category is always a competitive one, though this year’s race seems to have come to a pretty solid consensus. Rockwell gives a GREAT George W. Bush in “Vice,” but the film hasn’t been making much noise and he did win this award just last year. Driver is one of the most interesting young actors out there; he’ll win one of these eventually, but it won’t be for this performance. Grant has become a bit of a sentimental favorite in the run up to the Oscars – look up the Streisand story if you haven’t seen it – and his excellence is a big part of why his co-star is up for Best Actress. Alas, not going to happen. Ditto Sam Elliott, who somewhat confoundingly somehow doesn’t have an Oscar. He’s definitely a dark horse; he’s great in this and a “lifetime achievement” situation could possibly be in play. But no, the winner here is going to be Ali, just two years removed from his win for “Moonlight.” While “Green Book” has had a bumpy journey this awards season, Ali’s managed to float above the fray. He’ll win trophy number two for his work as Don Shirley.

Winner: Mahershala Ali

Best Supporting Actress:
Amy Adams, “Vice”
Marina de Tavira, “Roma”
Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
Emma Stone, “The Favourite”
Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”

As always, an absolutely killer lineup for this category. Marina de Tavira is heartbreakingly good in “Roma,” but foreign language performances tend to lag a bit in Oscar voting. Frankly, it’s a surprising – but totally deserved – nomination. Amy Adams is nominated for her sixth Oscar overall and for the fifth time in the category. She’s the unsung hero of “Vice” – turning Lynne Cheney into a ruthless political mastermind – but she’s going to wind up with her sixth loss. Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz present a big problem for voters. They’re both exceptional performances, albeit tonally different – Stone’s work feels comedic, Weisz’s more dramatic – but ultimately, they will almost certainly split the vote. Both women turn in Oscar-worthy performances that will suffer for their proximity to one another, though it wouldn’t be a complete shock if one (probably Weisz) pulls an upset. This leaves Regina King, who has been the clear favorite here for a good chunk of awards season. Her win here will serve as the proxy recognition for “If Beale Street Could Talk.” The chatter has been almost universally positive regarding her chances – there’s no reason to doubt the conventional wisdom here.

Winner: Regina King

Best Lead Actor:

Christian Bale, “Vice”
Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”
Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”
Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”

In a weird confluence, four of the five nominees for this award are being feted for playing real people. And since the person playing a fictional character isn’t going to win, we’ll start with him. Oh, Bradley Cooper. It really looked like “A Star is Born” was going to happen … and then it didn’t. Cooper’s turn as Jackson Maine might actually deserve the win, but it isn’t going to happen on this, his fourth try. As for the rest? Willem Dafoe is one of cinema’s greats, an iconic figure of the screen playing an iconic figure of the art world. He’s not going to win on his fourth try, either. Viggo Mortensen offers up a strong, nuanced performance in “Green Book” – it’s his and Ali’s work that allow us to (mostly) overlook that film’s more problematic aspects. He’s great, but he’s been swallowed up by backlash and flashier performances. Christian Bale’s work in “Vice” is utterly transformative, physically and otherwise; few performers disappear into a role quite the same way he does. He too is going to miss out on his fourth try (though he does have a win), but frankly, I think he should win. He won’t, however, because we’ve apparently settled on Rami Malek as the winner for his performance as Freddie Mercury. It’s an energetic performance, to be sure, and Malek does well with what he’s given. And the consensus seems to have settled on him. I don’t believe it’s the best performance on this list, but he’s almost certainly going to win.

Winner: Rami Malek

Best Lead Actress:

Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”
Glenn Close, “The Wife”
Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”
Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”
Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

This category runs the gamut; one of these women has seven Oscar nominations, while this marks the first-ever film role period for another. We’ll start with the newcomer. Yalitza Aparicio is incredible in “Roma.” Her lack of experience lends itself to a rawness of performance that is utterly captivating. Again, the Academy tends to be reticent about rewarding foreign language performances, but you should still keep an eye on this one. It’s nice to see Melissa McCarthy being recognized here; her work as Lee Israel displays a bleak irascibleness that hopefully bodes well for the future, but she doesn’t quite have it this time around. Olivia Colman was my favorite part of “The Favourite,” and she’d probably be my pick if I had a vote, but I don’t think she’s got enough juice to win. It feels like she might be someone who is the second or third choice for a lot of people. There was a stretch when it seemed as though this award was Lady Gaga’s to lose. I’m not going to argue the quality of her performance – I liked both her and the movie very much – but it seems as though that frontrunning has led to fatigue. And so, we come to Glenn Close, who is most likely going to win. It’s her seventh nomination, so it’s tough to argue that she isn’t due. Does she deserve THIS win? Since I – like everybody else – never saw “The Wife,” I can’t speak to it, but a lot of people who would know like her chances. So, I do too.

Winner: Glenn Close

Best Director:

Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”
Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”
Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”
Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma”
Adam McKay, “Vice”

This is quite a collection. It’s interesting that the Academy has selected three foreign-born directors for the category, including that relative rarity of a directing nominee whose film isn’t up for Best Picture. That’s the case with Pawel Pawlikowski, whose film “Cold War” is nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. It’s a real “just an honor to be nominated” situation – there’s zero chance that Pawlikowski gets the win here. Adam McKay seems to be working his way toward winning this award someday, but this isn’t the time. He made a really good movie in “Vice,” but he’s another one who’s simply going to have to wait. Yorgos Lanthimos is kind of in the same boat; he’s clearly a brilliant talent, but he hasn’t quite gotten over the hump. “The Favourite” is his most accessible film to date; if he continues down this path, he’ll be on this list again soon. There’s a chance that Spike Lee gets his long-overdue recognition from the Academy for his work on “BlacKkKlansman” a la Martin Scorsese’s win for “The Departed,” but it’s a slim one. The truth is that he should have at least one of these already, but the makeup call isn’t coming this year. That’s because Alfonso Cuarón is going to win for his work on “Roma.” This win has felt like more or less a done deal for months now. And deservedly so – Cuaron is a magnificent filmmaker. And to go from his last Oscars experience (2013’s “Gravity”) to this one illustrates just how deep his talents run. One of (I think) a number of trophies he collects on the night.

Winner: Alfonso Cuarón

Best Picture:

“Black Panther”
“BlacKkKlansman”
“Bohemian Rhapsody”
“The Favourite”
“Green Book”
“Roma”
“A Star Is Born”
“Vice”

Here we are – the big one.

As always, this is the spot where I offer up my annual declaration of wholehearted approval regarding the expansion of the Best Picture pool of nominees. The larger field allows room for films that warrant the recognition that comes with being named to this prestigious list. I approved then and I approved now.

This year, we’ve got eight films on the list. As usual, there are a handful that fall into that “happy to be here” category.

Count me among the people who really liked “BlacKkKlansman.” The basic weirdness of the conceit was taken and shaped by Spike Lee and helped along by both the aforementioned Adam Driver and the underrated work of John David Washington. It’s smart and funny and thought-provoking. It’s also maybe Lee’s fifth best movie, so it’s a tough ask for Best Picture.

Next, let’s talk about “Vice.” There’s a lot to love about this movie. The performances are absolutely phenomenal across the board – there’s a reason it got three acting nods. And McKay is developing a unique filmmaking style that serves this kind of story beautifully. And it shines a light into the shadows in which Dick Cheney and company operated. It’s good – but it won’t win.

Neither will “The Favourite.” Yorgos Lanthimos has done something special here, somehow creating a film that is equal parts costume drama and sex farce. It’s an unorthodox and engaging film, one told in interesting ways both visually and narratively. And again – if you’ve got three acting nominations, you’ve done something right. But for whatever reason, it never got any traction, so – no.

Two months ago, I’d have probably told you that “A Star is Born” was going to win this award. Now, it feels like an also-ran despite seven nominations. Where once, it seemed like a film of destiny, it has largely been relegated to “watch Bradley Cooper be bummed” status. It’s still a good movie – and a wildly successful one – but it will unfortunately likely be remembered as a bit of a disappointment.

“Green Book” seemed to come out of nowhere with its Golden Globes win, but there has been a lot of internet backlash under the bridge since then. It probably has a puncher’s chance, but it’s tough to see a path where it navigates the controversy successfully enough to pull out the win. Still, the Academy is notorious for having a soft spot for just this kind of movie, so an upset is possible.

There’s a small contingent of movie-knowers out there who genuinely believe that “Black Panther” has a legitimate shot at winning this award. I admire their optimism – and don’t disagree with their regard for the film’s quality – but we’re not at “superhero movie wins Oscar” time yet. Someday, perhaps – and this movie will be remembered as having helped pave the way – but I just can’t see it happening. It’s a great movie, but it isn’t winning Best Picture.

I can’t believe I have to say this, but there’s a legitimate chance that “Bohemian Rhapsody” wins Best Picture. Now, if it does, I won’t be as outraged as some, but let’s be real – this isn’t even close to a great movie. It’s an OK biopic with a strong lead performance that’s a little hagiographic for my tastes. This movie should not win, but it has a decent shot. The reality is that we’re overdue for this generation’s “Crash” – and this might be it.

That leaves “Roma.” Cuaron’s film is an absolute stunner, a visual masterpiece. Few films are able to bring together aesthetic brilliance and narrative resonance as completely as this one. Yes, it’s black and white. Yes, it’s in Spanish. None of that matters. It is a tender tragedy brought forth through visual poetry by one of our cinematic giants. We’ll see if its Netflix origins shift the paradigm going forward, but for now, let’s content ourselves with a deserving winner.

Winner: “Roma”

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And here are the rest of my picks. Mostly straightforward, although I’m torn on a couple – I’m not at all sure “Free Solo” beats “RBG,” for instance. And there’s always a chance that a movie like “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “The Favourite” could make some down-ballot noise and go on a run. But hey – if we knew what would happen, we wouldn’t bother caring in the first place.

Here they are, in no particular order.

Best Animated Feature:

“Incredibles 2,” Brad Bird
“Isle of Dogs,” Wes Anderson
“Mirai,” Mamoru Hosoda
“Ralph Breaks the Internet,” Rich Moore, Phil Johnston
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman

Winner: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”

Best Animated Short:

“Animal Behaviour,” Alison Snowden, David Fine
“Bao,” Domee Shi
“Late Afternoon,” Louise Bagnall
“One Small Step,” Andrew Chesworth, Bobby Pontillas
“Weekends,” Trevor Jimenez

Winner: “Bao”

Best Adapted Screenplay:

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
“BlacKkKlansman,” Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
“If Beale Street Could Talk,” Barry Jenkins
“A Star Is Born,” Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters

Winner: “BlacKkKlansman”

Best Original Screenplay:

“The Favourite,” Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara
“First Reformed,” Paul Schrader
“Green Book,” Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly
“Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón
“Vice,” Adam McKay

Winner: “The Favourite”

Best Cinematography:

“Cold War,” Lukasz Zal
“The Favourite,” Robbie Ryan
“Never Look Away,” Caleb Deschanel
“Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón
“A Star Is Born,” Matthew Libatique

Winner: “Roma”

Best Documentary Feature:

“Free Solo,” Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
“Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” RaMell Ross
“Minding the Gap,” Bing Liu
“Of Fathers and Sons,” Talal Derki
“RBG,” Betsy West, Julie Cohen

Winner: “Free Solo”

Best Documentary Short Subject:

“Black Sheep,” Ed Perkins
“End Game,” Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
“Lifeboat,” Skye Fitzgerald
“A Night at the Garden,” Marshall Curry
“Period. End of Sentence.,” Rayka Zehtabchi

Winner: “Black Sheep”

Best Live Action Short Film: 
“Detainment,” Vincent Lambe
“Fauve,” Jeremy Comte
“Marguerite,” Marianne Farley
“Mother,” Rodrigo Sorogoyen
“Skin,” Guy Nattiv

Winner: “Marguerite”

Best Foreign Language Film:

“Capernaum” (Lebanon)
“Cold War” (Poland)
“Never Look Away” (Germany)
“Roma” (Mexico)
“Shoplifters” (Japan)

Winner: “Roma”

Best Film Editing:

“BlacKkKlansman,” Barry Alexander Brown
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” John Ottman
“Green Book,” Patrick J. Don Vito
“The Favourite,” Yorgos Mavropsaridis
“Vice,” Hank Corwin

Winner: “Vice”

Best Sound Editing:

“Black Panther,” Benjamin A. Burtt, Steve Boeddeker
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” John Warhurst
“First Man,” Ai-Ling Lee, Mildred Iatrou Morgan
“A Quiet Place,” Ethan Van der Ryn, Erik Aadahl
“Roma,” Sergio Diaz, Skip Lievsay

Winner: “First Man”

Best Sound Mixing:

“Black Panther”
“Bohemian Rhapsody”
“First Man”
“Roma”
“A Star Is Born”

Winner: “A Star is Born”

Best Production Design:

“Black Panther,” Hannah Beachler
“First Man,” Nathan Crowley, Kathy Lucas
“The Favourite,” Fiona Crombie, Alice Felton
“Mary Poppins Returns,” John Myhre, Gordon Sim
“Roma,” Eugenio Caballero, Bárbara Enrı́quez

Winner: “Black Panther”

Best Original Score:

“BlacKkKlansman,” Terence Blanchard
“Black Panther,” Ludwig Goransson
“If Beale Street Could Talk,” Nicholas Britell
“Isle of Dogs,” Alexandre Desplat
“Mary Poppins Returns,” Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman

Winner: “If Beale Street Could Talk”

Best Original Song:

“All The Stars” from “Black Panther” by Kendrick Lamar, SZA
“I’ll Fight” from “RBG” by Diane Warren, Jennifer Hudson
“The Place Where Lost Things Go” from “Mary Poppins Returns” by Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman
“Shallow” from “A Star Is Born” by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, Andrew Wyatt and Benjamin Rice
“When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” from “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch

Winner: “Shallow”

Best Makeup and Hair:

“Border”
“Mary Queen of Scots”
“Vice”

Winner: “Vice”

Best Costume Design:

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” Mary Zophres
“Black Panther,” Ruth E. Carter
“The Favourite,” Sandy Powell
“Mary Poppins Returns,” Sandy Powell
“Mary Queen of Scots,” Alexandra Byrne

Winner: “Black Panther”

Best Visual Effects:

“Avengers: Infinity War”
“Christopher Robin”
“First Man”
“Ready Player One”
“Solo: A Star Wars Story”

Winner: “Avengers: Infinity War”

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